I’ve probably let you know in spurts that sometimes it feels like summer, the presumed magical pause for many of us, has been on overdrive over here. With summer teaching for me, makeup medical appointments for Lucia, and moving for the three of us, it’s easy to see where the time has gone.
I’ve been blogging about this book draft that I’m eager to get out to publishers, and I’ve been a bit critical of myself along the way. You see, I wish I’d had it out to publishers like in June. That was really unrealistic, but you know how when you just want to get something off your plate and out into the world so you can move forward with other tasks and ideas?
But yesterday, with the last class of the semester complete, no meetings on my schedule, and lovely light ahead of me, I had a free morning. And instead of cramming it with burdened and anxious writing, I let my mind wander. A colleague of mine had suggested another scholar who could be an interlocutor for me on the ideas of vulnerability, kinship, and need that are shaping my book. And so I sat there for several hours without an agenda–I read and I wrote, dialoging back and forth with this other scholar about my ideas, without an end in sight.
And it was good.
It was good to be creative, to let go of the aims and simply pursue the thoughts and the ideas and trust that they would matter. I think I eventually ended up with some insights that will help revise the little parts of my introduction that need revision.
But maybe not.
And the strange math of the week is that I still feel that I’ve accumulated something really valuable. It’s the type of wild exploration that I’ve been begging my students to risk doing, despite the confines of their cramped summer semester. “Dare to dream big,” I’ve said. “Go for that big idea, take risks,” I’ve goaded them in their writing.
But I’ve got to live by my own wisdom. I’ve got to carve space out for these creative pauses that excite, entice, and beckon without ulterior motives. It’s the stuff of believing in the creative process, I think, but also believing in yourself. Trusting yourself to manage this precious time that you’ve been given and valuing that good ideas need room to breathe, that a lot of the best stuff seeps out of us when we’re willing to work for it, wait for it, wrestle with it, and knead it a bit.
Another thing that I’ve been telling my students that I think goes hand in hand with these pauses is urging them not to turn in upon themselves and cower when the world rejects them. I’ve told them that their worth can’t come from these things they think or produce or accomplish but rather who they know, trust, and love themselves to be.
And suddenly it makes sense to me.
If I truly believe that, too, then I’ll value and allow myself that morning in a coffee shop to simply think and wander because I’m not the sum of my accomplishments or my successes, but rather an artist whose thoughts and wisdom and goodness need to be lived out daily. While I tell my students stuff like this all the time, I think it’s been a long time coming for me to admit that I’m a bit of an artist when it comes to words and ideas–that I’m a thinker and a dreamer, someone who likes to spin and sew and create with thoughts.
So thank you, dear students. It seems I’ve learned something really valuable from you this semester. It seems I’ve been reignited with the fire and excitement that comes from thinking. It seems I’ve been given the freedom to explore again rather than put everything I do to a purpose, a publication, a deeper success.
And that feels good.
Thanks for giving to me this small, sweet truth. And I’ll do my very best to honor it with a pause every once in awhile and believe in myself just a bit more.